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Ozia has been at the Hope for Life Centre since late 2009 and has strong opinions on the issue of ‘knowing your status’ and being positive and optimistic about his own HIV status. He arrived in South Africa to find employment as a migrant worker from the agricultural Midlands in politically troubled Zimbabwe.
On arriving at Johannesburg Park Station in March 2008 he called his friend who had motivated him to come to South Africa and asked him for help finding work.This proved unsuccessful and he was left homeless and jobless. He then went to the shelter at the Johannesburg Methodist Church which was already overcrowded (over 2000 people live there) with destitute and homeless people, both foreign and local. It was here, at the church, that he realised he was feeling gradually sicker and ended up at the Helen Joseph Public Hospital where he was treated for various ailments.
He then returned back to the church where conditions had worsened with disease running rife among the homeless sleeping in and around the building. He visited several hospitals and shelters in Johannesburg’s Central Business District area but was not treated well.
It was only near the end of 2009 that a tired and weary Ozia was referred to the MES Impilo Health Care facility (Hope for Life – Zaziwe) and was tested positive for TB and HIV. While most people would be terrified at the thought of being diagnosed with a life threatening condition, Ozia says he made a vow to face the disease head-on and in doing so conquer his normal"">fear through confidence. He was just happy that he knew his status and was in a position to start a new life knowing his status – much better, as Ozia says, than being part of nothing and being nowhere.
The thing that Ozia says helped him through the difficult last two years is the loving care and compassion that he received at the MES Impilo Centre compared to the harsh treatment he received at overcrowded and understaffed state hospitals.
The compassion shared and the ‘warm arms’ of the nursing staff at MES Impilo eventually helped a mortally sick Ozia gain enough strength to get his CD4 blood count high enough to start with Anti-retro viral treatment at the beginning of 2010 which has been hugely successful in developing his self-confidence, health and outlook on life. ‘When I arrived here- Zaziwe, I was just skin and bones and weighed 48kgs...now look at me, I weigh almost 70kgs after just a few months!’ says Ozia.
Ozia says now that he’s healthy and motivated, he’s going to go ‘to the people out there and find employment.’ When he finds work he says he’s going to make it his mission to convince the people he meets and works with to get tested and conquer the fear and stigma that many have surrounding HIV and other terminal diseases.
Story drawn from the experience of Metro Evangelical Services (MES), a faith based organization working with the Homeless Community in the inner city of Johannesburg and surrounding areas during CORDAID good practice